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A principle is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed. The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting system's designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any one of the principles was to be ignored.[1]

Examples of principles:

  • a descriptive comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption
  • a normative rule or code of conduct,
  • a law or fact of nature underlying the working of an artificial device.


Principle as cause

The principle of any effect is the cause that produces it.

Depending on the way the cause is understood the basic law governing that cause may acquire some distinction in its expression.

Principle of causality, as efficient cause

The efficient cause is the one that produces the necessary effect, as long as the necessary and sufficient conditions are provided.

The scientific process generally consists of establishing a cause by analyzing its effect upon objects. In this way, a description can be established to explain what principle brought about the change-effect. For this reason the principle of cause is considered to be a determining factor in the production of facts.

The principle of causality states, "every event has a cause"; i.e., everything that begins to exist must have a cause. It was formulated by Aristotle as "Everything that moves is moved by another". This principle, in conjunction with the principle that an infinite regress is not possible, has been used to argue for God's existence. The principle of causality is often associated with the similar, though distinct, principle of sufficient reason, according to which, there is a reason why everything is the particular way it is rather than some other way.

Principle as a final cause

Final cause is the end, or goal, which guides one to take the necessary actions to obtain it.

For that there needs to be an intelligence capable of conceiving the end and realizing that certain actions must be taken to achieve the goal.

Science does not recognize the finality of the natural causes as a guiding principle of investigation.

It is also understood therefore that the principle guides the action as a norm or rule of behavior, which produces two types of principles.

Principle as law

Principle as scientific law

Laws Physics. Laws Statistics. Laws Biological. Laws of nature are those that cannot be proven explicitly, however we can measure and quantify them observing the results that they produce.

Principle as moral law

It represents a set of values that orientate and rule the conduct of a concrete society. The law establishes an obligation in the individual's conscience that belongs to the cultural field in which such values are accepted. It supposes the liberty of the individual as cause, that acts without external coercion, through a process of socialization.

Principle as a juridic law

It represents a set of values that inspire the written norms that organize the life of a society submitting to the powers of an authority, generally the State. The law establishes a legal obligation, in a coercive way; it therefore acts as principle conditioning of the action that limits the liberty of the individuals.

Principle as axiom or logical fundament

Principle of sufficient reason

This is based on the truth or intelligibility of the being. The being has an identity and is intelligible, in virtue that it is. (The intelligibility is the identity of the being with intelligence.) That in virtue of which the being is intelligible, is called the reason or fundament of being. Here is the ontological principle: Every being has enough reason . Without this enough reason, the identity with oneself would be lost, becoming a non-being and therefore nothing. If a being lacked enough reason, of explication, it wouldn't be intelligible, conceiving itself as an absurd unreal non-being.

Principle of identity

This comes in consequence from the characteristic of identity of the being. The being is the being, and whoever denies that statement would be against the previously exposed. However, saying "what is, is what is" would seem, as a trial, merely analytical (A = A), but one realizes that in every sentence there is a direct relation between the predicate and the subject. To say "the earth is round", corresponds to a direct relation between the subject and the predicate. Taking this to the sentence "the being is the being", we realize the principle of identity that the being possesses.

Principle of contradiction

"One thing can't be and not be at the same time, under the same aspect." Example: It is not possible that in exactly the same moment it rains and doesn't rain (in the same place). see Law of noncontradiction

Principle of excluded middle

The principle of the excluding third or "principium tertium exclusum" is a principle of the traditional logic formulated canonically by Leibniz as: either A is B or A isn't B. It is read the following way: either P is true, or its denial P is. It is also known as "tertium non datur" ('A third (thing) is not). Classically it is considered to be one of the most important fundamental principles or laws of thought (along with the principles of identity, no contradiction and sufficient reason). see Law of excluded middle.

See also

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